Stockport-based Real Handful are on a mission to make snacking healthier, with a range of products that bring together a nutritious mix of nuts, seeds and fruits.
In an ultra-competitive sector, Real Handful has made it on to supermarket shelves across the UK. Now, despite the challenges of Covid-19, Joe Taylor (pictured below), who runs with the business with his partner Carly, explains why they have started working with the Growth Company’s Global Scale-up programme as part of their plans to launch in the USA.
So what’s different about Real Handful?
Snacks keep you going between meals, they’re an important part of our diets. But seven of the top ten snacks in the UK are essentially full of empty carbohydrates, with very little of the nutrition our bodies need. We want to make snacking on plant-based, and nutritious ingredients, like nuts, seeds, pulses and dried fruits, more delicious and much more common.
Our aim is to do everything a bit 'better' like our new nut snacking range where we bake our nuts rather than roast or fry them in oil. You end up with a nut that tastes cleaner and better whilst still being a fab source of fibre, protein and good fats to help keep you going if you’re busy and rushing around.
When did you first start working with the Growth Company?
We’ve both got a background in food and drink but not in setting up our own business. I took part in a business start-up bootcamp where the Growth Company was speaking. That was in 2014, and we’ve been working together ever since.
Access to Finance has proved a superb resource. They helped us to successfully apply for a start-up loan, and then prepare for one of their pitching events; that’s when we met our first local investor. Since then their on-going support has been amazing.
Tell us about the possible move into the American market…
We want to build a sustainable export side to the business, so that we’re not so reliant on one market. Trail mix is a huge snacking category in the US, whether you’re into running marathons or playing a round of golf. But it’s also an incredibly complicated market and we weren’t sure what our first move should be.
On the advice of our business advisor Kirsty Smith, we were signposted to an Internationalisation grant worth £10,000 from the Department for International Trade (DIT). This is a big project for us and the funding has allowed us to take it up a level.
The Growth Company is very well connected too, and Kirsty they put us in touch with consultants in Chicago, and programme partners KPMG has offered guidance on global IP to help future proof our business.
Working with GC has taken some of the risk out of moving into the US market; we’ve planned, we’ve analysed and we’ve researched which ranges will work best and at what price. Subsequently, this experience has led to us launching our products in Taiwan and the Czech Republic.
DIT has also helped us attend an international trade show. Although it’s online it’s still an important way of getting exposure as a new export business. We’re looking at launching in Australia too, with international sales forecast to make up a third of our business over the next three years.
What about future plans in the UK?
Traditionally, you’d find our products at the checkout, something you’d grab to go with your lunch or for a quick snack. But Covid has hit the market for this type of product really hard, and our work with offices and coffee shops has also disappeared.
We knew we had to pivot our offer to get into the main supermarket aisles with bigger bags and higher price points. We’ve launched a new range which was developed as a reaction to Covid, and changing consumer trends, and these are now available in 455 locations of the major supermarket chains.
How did this relationship with the Growth Company help you through the challenges of 2020?
Given the last 12 months and the way so much has moved online, digital consultancy support has become incredibly expensive. But then you've got this incredibly knowledgeable team at the Growth Company who can get you up and running. They're not going to be in your business everyday, but they can help steer you in the right direction in a really efficient way.
With the changes forced on the market by the pandemic, having a strong online presence was critical. So we re-launched our website, upskilled ourselves on Amazon, Facebook and Google and got to grips with social media.
Where did the mentoring fit in?
The Growth Company teamed us up with a mentor in the early stages, when we were developing our business plan. Then last year they launched a rapid mentoring scheme, and we’re now having regular Zoom meetings with a mentor that has experience of running a consumer goods business. Having another independent person to bounce ideas off, talk to and reflect on things is so valuable.
Is your relationship with the Growth Company set to continue?
It has been a horrible 12 months, but through the support we have received from the Growth Company, and the decisions we've made as a business, we are coming out of it feeling like there is actually a lot more to go after now. Being able to focus on growth opportunities and having positive conversations rather than getting caught up in the doom and gloom has been refreshing.
The support on offer is so integrated and well co-ordinated. You don't need hours and hours of people's time, instead what you get is a guiding hand. That is where GC is so great – experts who can give a little bit of their time, and hopefully make some dramatic improvements to a business.
There are not many questions that we have around our business that are not covered by a service within the Growth Company. If I’m honest, we have got to the stage where we use so many, I feel I should be paying them!
"Being able to focus on growth opportunities and having positive conversations rather than getting caught up in the doom and gloom has been refreshing."Joe Taylor, Real Handful